Port Townsend City Council evaluating water systems

Utility rates could increase by 2023-24

PORT TOWNSEND — The City of Port Townsend is at the beginning stages of a multi-year process to evaluate and update its sewer, water and wastewater utility systems, and that could alter utility rates.

“Periodically we develop a comprehensive plan to schedule the work that needs to be done to keep these systems up and running and address population growth demands on the system,” Public Works Director Steve King said. “The end result of these plans is a prioritized list of investments that need to be made as well as operational things that we need to run our systems better.”

King and city project engineers presented to the city Monday their general plan for the system.

“The general sewer plan will evaluate the adequacy of city collections systems and the wastewater treatment facility to handle planned growth over the next 20 years and determine the improvements needed to serve that growth, provide for repair and replacement of again components, and meet existing and upcoming regulations,” Project Engineer Dan Malhum said.

The analysis process began last August with a focus on data collection and system analysis, and it later expanded to include an analysis of the city’s wastewater treatment plant and the development of a compost facility.

“Ultimately what this means for the public is that these systems cost money to run, so when you have a list of improvements, we have to fund those through the monthly utility rate that our customers pay,” King said.

“So that’s probably the biggest impact to the public, and we will look ahead and develop a plan, and we have to spend X amount of dollars over X amount of years, and that means the rates will need to be changed to accomplish that,” he added.

The list of improvements is still being compiled, King said, adding it’s too early in the process to know how much utility rates could change.

“We shared with the council how our current system is running and what kinds of things we will be looking at,” he said. “At this point, we don’t know what the costs are yet or what the rates will be. We haven’t done that work yet. That will be done over the next couple of years, so I would anticipate that the next rate change will probably be in 2023 or 2024.”

One of the focuses will be upgrades and repairs to the 25-year-old wastewater treatment plant.

“In sewer systems, the gasses that come from sewer water are corrosive, so we have a lot of corrosion at the plant that we need to fix,” King said. “Some of the concrete and a lot of the steel need to be replaced or refinished. It’s normal wear and tear, but it needs to be dealt with.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

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